Theatrical Release Date: 28 Jul 2005
Home Ent. Release Date: 11 Sep 2005
Often hailed as the father of independent film, John Cassavetes’ maverick approach to film-making captured some of the most honest and genuinely moving portrayals of human emotion ever committed to film. Five of his finest works including Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie and Opening Night will now be available on DVD boxset featuring newly recorded UK exclusive audio commentaries by Peter Bogdanovich, Seymour Cassel, Producer Al Ruben, critic Tom Charity and original film crew. Determined to produce interesting and challenging films outside the Hollywood mainstream, Cassavetes funded many of his own films from his acting roles in TV and film (most notably Rosemary’s Baby and The Dirty Dozen. Shadows marked his directorial debut in 1959 and was inspired by an improvised scene from an acting workshop he taught in New York. Made for $40, 000, it took Cassavetes and his team of actors three years to complete the film, which explores the dynamics of inter-racial relationships in a jazz infused 1950s New York. In Faces, Cassavetes follows the complicated lives of a group of middle class people living in LA and contains some startlingly raw performances from actors Lynn Carlin and John Marley as married couple Maria and Richard who both commit adultery to escape the misery of their loveless marriage. Richard begins an affair with high-class call girl Jeannie Rapp (Gena Rowlands, The Skeleton Key) and tells his wife that he wants a divorce. Maria, spurned by his rejection, falls into the arms of a carefree young drifter, Chet (Seymour Cassel, The Life Aquatic, In The Soup) but the affair only leaves her feeling suicidal. A brutally honest study of middle age disappointment and sexual power struggles, Faces brought Cassavetes an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and takes on the subject of failed marriage with a brave and unflinching stare. Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes’ wife) gives the performance of her career in A Woman Under The Influence as Mabel Longhetti, a suburban housewife struggling to keep her family together while dealing with the devastating effects of a nervous breakdown. Peter Falk (Columbo) plays Mabel’s husband, Nick Longhetti, a construction worker who is deeply in love with his wife but has real difficulty understanding her emotional sensitivity and bohemian attitude. By looking closely at Mabel’s stifling family life and her husband’s violent outbursts, the film questions definitions of mental illness and the failure of people to communicate. An intense viewing experience, A Woman Under The Influence was Cassavetes’ most commercially successful independent project, bringing him an Oscar nomination for Best Director and Gena Rowlands one for Best Actress. Ben Gazarra (Dogville) plays Cosmo Vitelli in crime thriller The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Cosmo owns a run down LA strip club called The Crazy Horse West and is in danger of losing his beloved club when he gambles away $23, 000 one night. The mob offer to clear him of his debt if he agrees to kill a rival Chinese bookie for them. In a desperate effort to save the one thing that means something to him, Cosmo is drawn into the criminal underworld where he is clearly out of his depth. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a suspenseful and thought provoking meditation on the failure of the American dream which mixes elements of film noir and gangster thriller. In Opening Night, ageing Broadway actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) begins rehearsals for her role in a play about a middle aged woman living in denial at the onset of her autumn years. A series of pre-show setbacks and disasters threaten preparations and when Myrtle witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, she is forced to confront her own personal and professional turmoil. An intelligent examination of the ‘show must go on ethic’ that also draws upon Cassavates’ fascination with personal destruction, Opening Night features an outstanding performance from Gena Rowlands and a great supporting cast which includes John Cassavetes himself as her costar Maurice Adams, Ben Gazarra as her charming director and Joan Blondell as the hardened playwright. Shot on stages with live audiences reacting freely to the material Opening Night pulsates with the naturalism and naked emotion that characterises Cassavetes’ uniquely affecting cinema.